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Mênghuo replied, "My fathers have long held the Silver Pit Hills, and the three rivers are their ramparts. If you can take that stronghold then will I and my heirs for ever acknowledge your power and yield."
“I am going to liberate you once more,” said Kʻung-ming, "and you may put your army in order if you will and
fight a decisive battle. But after that, if you are my prisoner and are still refractory and unsubmissive, I shall have to exterminate your whole family." He ordered the lictors to loose the prisoner's bonds and let
After he had gone, the other two, the king's brother and Tossů, were led in and they also received their liberty. They were given wine and food, but they were confused and could not look K‘ung-ming in the face. They were given horses to travel on.
The way has been long and now danger is near,
But faith in their leader banishes fear. The next chapter will tell how Mênghuo reorganised his army and whose was the victory.
WILD BEASTS AS WARRIORS; K'UNG-MING'S SIXTH VICTORY; BURNING OF THE RATTAN ARMY; SEVENTH CAPTURE OF THE
KING. All the prisoners were released; and Yang Fêng and his sons were rewarded with ranks, and his men were given presents. They expressed their gratitude and returned to their own, while Mênghuo and his hastened home to Silver-pit Ravine.
Outside this ravine were three rivers, the Lu, the Kannan Shui, or Sweet South Water, and the Hsich'êng Shui, or West Water. These three streams united to form one river which was called the Sanchiang, or Three Rivers. Close to the ravine on the north was a wide and fruitful plain; on the west were salt wells. The Lu River flowed about two hundred li to the south-west, and due south was a valley called the Liangtu Ravine. There were hills in, as well as surrounding, the ravine, and in these they found silver; whence the name "Silver Pit."
A palace had been built in the ravine, which the Man kings had made their stronghold, and there was an ancestral temple, which they called Chia-kuei, or Family Devil, where they solemnised sacrifices of bulls and horses at the four seasons. They called these sacrifices "Enquiring of the Demons." Human sacrifices were offered also, men of Shu or men of their own people belonging to other villages. Sick persons swallowed no drugs, but prayed to a chief sorcerer, called Drug Demon. There was no legal code, the only punishment for every transgression being death.
When girls are grown and become women they bathe in a stream. Men and women are kept separate, and they marry whom they will, the parents having no control in that particular. They call this hsüeh-i (Learning the Trade). In good seasons the country produces grain, but if the harvest fails they make soup out of serpents and eat boiled elephant flesh. All over the country the head of the family of greatest local consideration is termed "Lord of the Ravine," and the next in importance is called a “Notable.” A market is held in the city of Sanchiang, or Three Rivers, on the first day of every moon, and another on the fifteenth; goods are brought in and bartered.
In his own ravine Mênghuo gathered his family and clan to the number of a thousand or more and addressed them: “I have been put to shame by the men of Shu many times, and I have sworn to take revenge for the insults. Has anyone any proposal to make ?”
Thereupon a certain one replied, saying, “I can produce a man able to defeat Chuko Liang."
The assembly turned to the speaker, who was a brother of Mênghuo's wife. He was the head of eight tribes of barbarians, and was named Tailai. He was a chief.
“Who is the man ?" asked Mênghuo.
Chief Tailai replied, "He is Mulu, Prince and Lord of the Pana Ravine. He is a master of witchcraft who can call up the wind and invoke the rain. He rides upon an elephant and is attended by tigers, leopards, wolves, venomous snakes and scorpions. Beside, he has under his hand three legions of superhuman soldiers. He is very bold. O King, write him a letter and send him presents, which I will deliver. If he will consent to lend his aid, what fear have we of Shu?”
Mênghuo was pleased with the scheme and ordered the “State Uncle” to draft a letter. Then he ordered Tossú to defend Sanchiang and make the first line of defence.
K‘ung-ming led his men near Sanchiang. Taking a survey of the country, he noted that the city could be reached by a bank on one face, so he sent Wei Yen and Chao Yün to march along the road and attack. But when they reached the rampart they found it well defended by bows and crossbows.
The men of the city were adepts in the use of the bow, and they had one sort which discharged ten arrows at once. Furthermore, the arrows were poisoned, and a wound meant certain death. The two captains saw that they could not succeed, and so retired.
When K‘ung-ming heard of the poisoned arrows, he mounted his light chariot and went to see for himself. Having regarded the defences, he returned to his camp and ordered a retirement of ten li. This move delighted the Mans, who congratulated each other on their success in driving off the besiegers, who, as they concluded, had been frightened away. So they gave themselves up to rejoicing and kept no watch. Nor did they even send out scouts.
The army of Shu made a strong camp in their new halting place and closed the gates for defence. For five days they gave no sign. One evening, just at sunset, a slight breeze began to blow. Then K'ung-ming issued an order that every man should provide himself with a coat by the first watch. If any one lacked he would be put to death. None of the captains knew what was in the wind, but the order was obeyed. Next, each man was ordered to fill his coat with earth. This order appeared equally strange, but it was carried out. When all
were ready, the men were told to carry the earth to the foot of the city wall, and the first arrivals would be rewarded. So they ran with all speed with the dry earth and reached the wall. Then with the earth they were ordered to make a raised way, and the first man on the wall was promised a reward.
The whole of the ten legions of Shu, and their native allies, having thrown their burdens of earth near the wall, then quickly rushed up the incline, and with one great shout were on the wall. The archers on the wall were seized and dragged down; those who got clear ran away into the city. Tossă was slain in the mêlée that followed on this attack. The men of Shu moved through the city slaying all they met. Thus was the city captured and with it great booty of jewels, which were made over to the army as a reward for their prowess.
The few soldiers who escaped went away and told the king what had happened. He was much distressed. Before he had recovered they told him that the men of Shu had come over and were encamped at the mouth of his own ravine.
Just as he was in the very depths of distress, a laugh came from behind the screen, and a woman appeared, saying, “Though you are brave, how stupid you are! I am only a woman, but I want to go out and fight.”
The woman was his wife, Chujung. Her family had lived long among the Mans, but she was a descendant of the Chujung family. She was expert in the use of the flying sword and never missed her aim.
Mênghuo rose and bowed to her. The woman thereupon mounted a horse and forthwith marched out at the head of many captains, leading five legions of men of the ravines, and set out to drive off the men of Shu.
Just as the host got clear of the ravine it was stopped by a cohort led by Chang I. At once the Mans deployed, and the woman leader armed herself with five swords such as she used. In one hand she held an eighteen-foot signal staff, and she sat a curly-haired, reddish horse.
Chang I was secretly troubled at the sight before him, but he engaged the amazon. After a few passes the lady turned her steed and bolted. Chang I went after her, but a sword came flying through the air directly at him. He tried to fend off with one hand, but it wounded his arm, and he fell to the ground. The Mans gave a loud shout; some of them pounced on the unlucky leader and made him prisoner.
Then Ma Chung, hearing his comrade had been taken, rushed out to rescue, but only to be surrounded. He saw the amazon holding up her staff and made a dash forward, but just then his steed went down under him, and he was also a prisoner.
Both captains were taken into the ravine and led before the king. He gave a banquet in honour of his wife's success,
and during the feast the lady bade the lictors put the two prisoners to death. They hustled the two captains in and were just going to carry out their orders when Mênghuo checked them.
“No; five times has Chuko Liang set me at liberty. It would be unjust to put these to death. Confine them till we have taken their chief; then we may execute them.”
His wife was merry with wine and did not object. So their lives were spared.
The defeated soldiers returned to their camp. K‘ung-ming took steps to retrieve the mishap by sending for Ma Tai, Chao Yün and Wei Yen, to each of whom he gave special and private orders.
Next day the Man soldiers reported to the king that Chao Yün was offering a challenge. The amazon forthwith mounted and rode out to battle. She engaged Chao Yün, who soon fled. The lady was too prudent to risk pursuit, and rode home. Then Wei Yen repeated the challenge; he also fled as if defeated. But again the lady declined to pursue. Next day Chao Yün repeated his challenge and ran away as before. The amazon signalled no pursuit. But at this Wei Yen rode up and opened a volley of abuse and obloquy. This proved too much, and she gave the signal to go after him and led the way. Wei Yen increased his pace, and the amazon doubled hers, and she and her followers pressed into a narrow road along a valley. Suddenly behind her was heard a noise, and Wei Yen, turning his head, saw the lady tumble out of her saddle.
She had rushed into an ambush prepared by Ma Tai; her horse had been tripped up by ropes. She was captured, bound and carried off to the Shu camp. Some of her people endeavoured to rescue her, but they were driven off.
K‘ung-ming seated himself in his tent to see his prisoner, and the amazon was led up. He bade them remove her bonds, and she was conducted to another tent, where wine was laid before her. Then a message was sent to Mênghuo to say that she would be exchanged for the two captive leaders. The king agreed, and they were set free. As soon as they arrived, the lady was escorted by Kʻung-ming himself to the mouth of the ravine, where Menghuo welcomed her half gladly, half angrily.
Then they told Mênghuo of the coming of the Lord of the Pana Ravine, and he went out to meet him. He rode up on his white elephant, dressed in silks, and with many gold and pearl ornaments. He wore a double sword at his belt, and he was followed by the motley pack of fighting animals that he fed, gambolling and dancing about him.
Mênghuo made him a lowly obeisance and then poured out his tale of woes. Mulu 'promised to avenge his wrongs and was led off to a banquet which had been prepared.